The lions and hyenas have been reported to greatly influence the distribution of cheetahs. However, the cheetah’s worst enemies are the degradation of suitable habitat, an insufficient supply of prey, and the species’ low genetic diversity.
Groups of Cheetahs are less likely to be harassed by most predators than are single animals.
Cheetah mothers are unable to defend small cubs against Lions that are four times their weight.
Up to 90% of baby cheetahs are killed during the first few weeks by lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, or even eagles. Cheetah cubs often hide in the dense brush for their safety. Mother cheetahs defend their cubs and sometimes successfully ward off predators from their cubs. Male cheetah coalitions may also hunt other predators, depending on the size of the coalition and the size and number of predators. Cheetah mothers are unable to defend small cubs against Lions that are four times their weight.
Feline immunodeficiency virus is also present in high frequency (40%) in some Cheetah populations (e.g. Tanzania), but absent (0–2%) in others (e.g. Namibia). Lentivirus and Bartonella have also been reported in the wild. In captivity, infectious diseases are far more common: feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV)/feline enteric coronavirus and feline herpes virus are endemic.
In both the USA and South Africa, captive Cheetahs also suffer from gastritis associated with Heliobacter that accounts for up to 40% of adult mortality.
Chronic degenerative diseases, such as glomerulosclerosis, veno-occlusive disease and amyloidosis, are also major causes of mortality. Cheetahs under one year of age frequently die from pneumonia. Other diseases recorded in captivity include parvovirus, spongiform encephalopathy, dermatitis, leukoencephalopathy and hindlimb paralysis.
Stress, as measured by elevated corticosteroid concentrations, and perhaps diet and low genetic variability, are both thought to be responsible for the prevalence of degenerative disease in captive animals raising conservation and ethical concerns about keeping Cheetahs in captivity.
Penzhorn et al. provided a detailed review of parasites recovered from both wild and captive Cheetahs at the time, including one rickettsia, seen in blood smears from an animal in Nairobi N. P., nine protozoa (including Hepatazoon sp., and Theileria-like piroplasms), 14 nematodes, four cestodes (including three species of Taenia), one trematode (Pharyngostomum cordatum), 21 ticks, two mites which cause sarcoptic mange, four flies (among which, lesions caused by Stomoxys calcitrans have been seen on the ears of Cheetahs at breeding centers in South Africa), four fleas and two lice (Damalinia elongata, usually associated with Impalas, and Felicola sp.). Some of these parasites normally are associated with the prey of Cheetahs, which presumably become infected while feeding
Lions and hyenas tend to hunt and feed at night, so cheetahs are daytime hunters to reduce interspecific competition for similar food sources. Cheetahs also spatially avoid other predators as these tend to negatively affect their viability due to high cub predation and kleptoparasitism. About 73% of cheetah cubs fail to achieve independence due to mortality caused by predators: incidents caused by lions and about 12% by hyenas
Cheetahs rarely defend their prey against kleptoparasites and up to 78% of stolen victims may be taken by hyenas and 15% by lions. Dense vegetation reduces kleptoparasitism because cheetahs are less conspicuous when capturing prey and have less difficulty concealing their prey while eating, increasing their dwell time
Despite their speed and talent for hunting, cheetahs outnumber other large predators over most of their range. Having evolved for brief bursts of extreme speed at the expense of their strength, they cannot hold their own against most animals in Africa. They usually avoid a fight and will immediately kill even a single hyena, rather than risk injury. Since cheetahs depend on their speed to get their meals, any injury that slows them down could essentially be life-threatening.
A cheetah has a 50% chance of losing its prey to other predators. Cheetahs avoid competition by hunting at different times of the day and eating immediately after killing. Due to the shrinking habitat in Africa, cheetahs have in recent years faced increased pressure from other native African predators as the available range shrinks.